Monday, October 7, 2013

Winter Favorites: Hamburger Soup (Quick & Easy)

Soup is somewhat of an enigma in our household.  I'm a big fan of soup in that it's easy and can incorporate lots of leftover veggies or meat, and it's a classic winter dish. My husband is not a fan, because as a man who works physically during much of his day to day life, it's just not filling enough.  This is beyond me, because a bowl of soup in the winter (read: not over-much physical activity) is more than sufficient for a meal.  He has recently specified that soup is not enough as a whole meal, but that it's fine if it's paired with something a little heftier, like a sandwich. So soup is back on the menu, hurrah!

Today's soup recipe falls into the category of classic basics.  It's got meat in it, but not enough for a working man, so feel free to add more if needed.  Alternately, it's got beef broth in it, which, if made from actual bones and not store bought (that's beef flavored but has none of the benefits of real bone broth) works as a "protein sparer". Broth isn't a complete protein (it only has two amino acids) but it works with protein so that we can more efficiently utilize the meat we do eat. There's a crazy amount of nutrients and minerals in good bone broth.  If good meat is a little pricey for your budget, bone broths can help make up the difference.

This soup can be made in the half an hour before dinner, or you can throw it in the crockpot in the morning.  So here's the recipe, with quicker alternates if the day calls for them:

1# hamburger, browned
1/2 c. chopped onion (OR 2-3 T. dried minced onion)
4-6 medium diced potatoes (peeled or unpeeled)
3-4 carrots, diced
2-3 cloves of minced garlic (OR 1 t. garlic powder)
1 c. pasta of choice (we use orzo)
6-8 cups beef broth
salt and pepper to taste

If you're doing this on the stove, you can do it all in one pot and save the dishes.  Brown the hamburger, onion, and garlic powder in a good sized soup pot.  
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Continue at a low boil until potatoes and carrots are tender. (20-30 minutes.)
Add pasta 15-30 minutes before serving time, depending on what type you use.  (Orzo takes longer; basic egg noodles would take much less.)  

Add salt to taste-- we like lots since this soup doesn't have a lot of spices or strong flavors.  The salt brings out what's there and makes a world of difference.

Okay, so here's the other tweaks you can add to this:

--Crockpot: put browned meat and rest of ingredients in crockpot in the morning and cook on low until dinner.  Add pasta shortly before serving and turn on high to cook it.

--No noodles: last night I made it at my dad's place and we didn't have noodles around-- feel free to skip them.  They add texture but no real nutritional benefits. And you could always serve it with some bread if you feel like soup isn't complete without some kind of wheat product.  :-)

--Extra broth to stretch the batch: We added 12 cups of broth last night instead of 8 since we had 9 folks to feed.  It definitely minimized the amount of beef per serving which most times would be an issue, but last night we just needed something light and this sufficed just fine.  We feel that protein is more important than things like potatoes in our household, so I would typically add another pound of meat instead of increasing potatoes and carrots, but if that's cost prohibitive for you, you can take comfort in the bone broth which delivers a truckload of nutrients in place of the actual meat.  

--More veggies: this would taste just fine with more vegetables-- I've been known to toss in green beans, peas, or whatever strikes my fancy.  (This is horrifying to my precise engineer husband who prefers things to be exactly the same every time, but the kitchen has to be allowed a little lateral freedom...)

1 comment :

  1. Orzo instead of ramen noodles . . . oh, dear. ;-)